Monday, October 15, 2007

Memory Hole (15 October): What else happened today

113 years ago today: Dreyfus affair begins

On 15 October 1894 Alfred Dreyfus is arrested for spying, and the Dreyfus affair began. By the time it realized that there was no evidence, it was politically impossible to withdraw the prosecution without causing a scandal that would bring down the "big boys" in the French Army.

Who us?

25 years ago today: Government scientists lied in "Sheep" trial

On 15 October 1982 the journal Science reported that government scientists in the US had lied in the 1956 "Sheep" trial. The trial involved deaths of thousands of sheep following an atom bomb blast on 19 May 1953. 30 years after the original courtcase, the court ruled that:

"It appears by clear and convincing evidence, the judge said, that agents of the government made false or misleading representations, that witnesses were improperly pressured, that crucial information was intentionally withheld or misrepresented, and that 'by these convoluted actions and in related ways the processes of the court were manipulated' to the government's advantage."

A later article in Science (218, 5 November 1982: 545-547) reported further information about the falsification of data by the scientists. It suggested that two the main liars in the 1956 trial may have been rewarded. They went on went on to Harvard and a Deanship at Washington State University.

More government stimulated research misconduct and cover-up.

Sources: Hat tip; "Scientists Implicated in Atom Test Deception," Science 218, 5 November 1982, 545-547; "Atom Bomb Tests Leave Infamous Legacy," Science 218 15 October 1982, 266-269.

19 years ago today: "Willful" uranium release admitted

On 15 October 1988 the New York Times reported on Congressional hearings into nuclear weapons production plants. It was stated that the Fernald, Ohio production plant had been releasing tons of radioactive waste into the environment for 37 years. Although it was initially thought this was accidental, the DOE admits here that it was "willful conduct".

Said the President of the day:
"The Government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other."
Ronald Reagan

Source: Noble, K. B. "U.S. for decades, let uranium leak at weapons plant." New York Times 1988 (15 October); Hat tip

14 years ago today: Nobel Prize for work to end apartheid

On 15 October 1993
Nelson Mandela and
F. W. de Klerk
were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work to end apartheid in South Africa.

12 years ago today: Saddam counts his votes

On 15 October 1995 Saddam Hussein gains 99.96% of votes in Iraq's presidential elections.
See also: How Bush took Florida

10 years ago today: Resignations at the NEJM over research ethics

On 15 October 1997 there were some interesting resignations from the Editorial board of the New England Journal of Medicine following criticsm of the ethics and patient consent in placebo controlled AIDS studies in third world countries. The NEJM attacked the studies comparing them to the infamous Tuskegee experiment. Dr. Marcia Angell, the journal's executive editor, had written the critical editorial.

Source: New York Times

9 years ago today: Funding withdrawn after refusal to alter undesired report

On 15 October 1998 Nature reported that the state of California's decision to stop funding an epidemiologist had prompted concerns about apparent reluctance to accept unfavourable scientific results.

John Pierce, an epidemiologist at UCSD had already been sent a letter confirming the intention to extend his research contract for $4.85 million. He was asked to assess adolescent smoking, complete a fourth survey on smoking behaviour in the state, and report on the success of a state tobacco control programme funded by a cigarette tax of 25 cents a pack introduced in 1990.

But after receiving his initial research report the department ended his contract. The report concluded that the tobacco control programme lost its effectiveness in 1994 coinciding with a large cut in spending on anti-smoking education. Pierce had declined to make "statistical adjustments" saying that it "would damage the scientific credibility of the report".

Pierce and other researchers claim the department's action was intended to prevent the publication of data that highlight the harm caused to smoking prevention efforts by state funding cuts. The results were "not politically acceptable and [he] got fired for it," says Stanton Glantz, a tobacco researcher.

This is a potent source of scientific bias. Is it research misconduct?

"Epidemiologist's Funds Axed After Report on Californian Smoking," Nature 395 (15 October 1998)

Piltdown Chicken

7 years ago today: The Piltdown Chicken

On 15 October 1999 the National Geographic Society (see also 13 October) set its public relations machine into overdrive to announce the amazing discovery in China of a 125-million-year-old fossil missing link between dinosaurs and birds.

The bird (Archaeoraptor Liaoningensis) was shown to reporters and later featured in National Geographic magazine ("Feathers for T. rex?" National Geographic, Nov 1999, 98-107). Eventually National Geographic admitted they had been duped.

Red flags had been raised about the discovery at various points, but they had failed to see them. A bit like JBMR.

Source: The Piltdown Chicken

5 years ago today: Few Universities care about inappropriate research contracting and breach of ICMJE rules

On 15 October 2002 a Duke University survey published in NEJM confirmed fears that clinical research at academic institutions is not governed by ethical standards and is largely under the control of the pharmaceutical industry. "Academic institutions routinely engage in industry-sponsored research that fails to adhere to International Committee of Medical Journal Editors guidelines regarding trial design, access to data, and publication rights. Our findings suggest that a reevaluation of the process of contracting for clinical research is urgently needed."

"It's amazing how academic medical centers tie themselves into knots to accommodate something they shouldn't allow to begin with," said Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor of the NEJM.

Is the acceptance of a contract that leads (on average) to scientific misconduct an act of scientific misconduct in and of itself?

Source: NEJM

4 years ago today: Terri Schiavo- and spurious ethical debates

On 15 October 2003 Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was removed following numerous failed petitions by her parents to prevent such action. It would be reinserted a week later by order of Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Amazing what we, medical journals, and bioethicists choose to debate - and what to ignore completely. Bioethicists create a mass of many paths leading from nowhere to nothing.
Reading: Terri Schiavo's autopsy report

3 years ago today: FDA sued over failure to act on Serzone recall

On 15 October 2004 Public Citizen added several more deaths to its petition to the FDA - calling the agency "grossly negligent" for failing to issue a ban on the antidepressant Serzone despite the drug having been banned in Canada and Europe.

On 10/02/2003 Bristol-Myers Squibb announced: "It has come to the attention of Health Canada that nefazodone (Serzone) has been associated with adverse hepatic events including liver failure requiring transplantation in Canada. Health Canada discontinued sales of nefazodone in Canada on November 27 2003.

When Public Citizen first sought a Serzone ban in March 2003, the group cited 21 cases of liver failure and 11 resulting deaths. By October 2003 there were 55 cases of liver failure with 20 deaths.

Bristol-Myers Squibb announced in May 2004 that it was pulling its antidepressant Serzone from the U.S. market, but generic formulations remained available.

Bristol-Myers continued to say that Serzone is safe though the basis for this claim was uncertain. Concerns were also expressed that Serazone data derived from clinical trials had not been made available or published.

Martin Keller at Brown University received money (Boston Globe 10 April 1999) from Bristol-Myers Squibb in relation to Serzone. The Globe also noted a 1998 review by Keller which Serzone was promoted. In 1998 Keller received $77,400 in personal income ("consulting fees") from Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Such is the way of science.

See,, Boston Globe 10 April 1999

3 years ago today: FDA warning re paediatric SSRI use

On 15 October 2004 the Food and Drug Administration ordered that all antidepressants carry strong warnings that they "increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior" in children who take them.

The FDA have not yet made any statement about potential deception in SSRI clinical trials or nondisclosure of trials.
Source: FDA Advisory

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Anonymous said...

here was the AP report about the "Piltdown Chicken"

Anonymous said...


Creationist's loved this story....